Sherwood Smith (@sherwood_smith)
I think my biggest surprise at Sirens was my discovery that there can be many points-of-view, but the atmosphere is not divisive or condemnatory. I have never had a sense that anyone’s opinion is ignored because the speaker is not cool enough, thin enough, young enough, radical enough, or whatever enough. Sirens has become more conscious of making certain that this is a safe space for a spectrum of opinions, something that many women my age have encountered seldom enough for it to be as remarkable as it is appreciated.
I love the fact that Sirens does active outreach with their scholarships in order to make the conference available to those who might not have the wherewithal to attend. I also like the fact that my registration fees make possible those scrumptious shared meals—each sparking so many interesting conversations—that in fact, cost more than the registration actually provides. Whoever does the ordering clearly loves food, and also takes a wide variety of dietary needs into consideration when ordering.
So to help keep costs down, on the last day, there is the fun of the auction, where those with discretionary funds can duke it out in bid wars over some truly remarkable items and offers. The auction is exciting, often hilarious, even if your wallet is flat!
Casey Blair (@CaseyLBlair)
I was surprised by how welcoming and thoughtful the community is. At Sirens people go out of their way to include newcomers and quiet or shy attendees in their meals and conversations. So many of us are introverts, but it’s rare to find a community that knows how to create spaces that aren’t overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting a professional conference to be the place where I felt most comfortable being myself and making lasting friendships.
It was really great to meet other writers both published and unpublished. I expected to meet lots of readers and nerds but I don’t know why I was so surprised to meet so many writers. I knew this but it’s nice to meet people who are writers as a writer. There’s definitely a chance to talk about writing but not in a weird way where you put published people on pedestals.
s.e. smith (@realsesmith)
This may sound silly, but I was both surprised and pleased by the level of organization my first year, and now I’m spoiled. The Sirens crew run an extremely tight ship, more so than any conference I’ve ever attended, and every year, I think “oh, so this is how you run a conference.” I always feel so well taken care of from the second I walk into the registration area to the moment we say farewell until next year, and there’s an incredible level of attention to detail, interest in hearing feedback, and focus on making sure everyone has an outstanding time. It means a lot.